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Testimony ceremonies in Asia: Integrating spirituality in testimonial therapy for torture survivors in India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and the Philippines.

Igreja, Victor
June 4, 2015

Source: (2012) Transcultural Psychiatry. 49(3-4): 568-589.

This study explores the therapeutic implications of including culturally adapted spiritual ceremonies in the process of testimonial therapy for torture survivors in India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and the Philippines. Data were collected through an action research process with Asian mental health and human rights organizations, during which the testimonial method was reconceptualized and modified to include four sessions. In the first two sessions, community workers assist survivors in the writing of their testimony, which is their narrative about the human rights violations they have suffered. In the third session, survivors participate in an honour ceremony in which they are presented with their testimony documents. In the fourth session, the community workers meet with the survivors for a reevaluation of their well-being. The honour ceremonies developed during the action research process came to employ different kinds of symbolic language at each site: human rights (India), religious/Catholic (Sri Lanka), religious/Buddhist (Cambodia), and religious/Moslem (Philippines). They all used embodied spirituality in various forms, incorporating singing, dancing, and religious purification rituals in a collective gathering. We suggest that these types of ceremonies may facilitate an individual’s capacity to contain and integrate traumatic memories, promote restorative self-awareness, and engage community support. Additional research is needed to determine the method’s applicability in other sociopolitical contexts governed by more Western-oriented medical traditions. (authors’ abstract)


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